DUCK SOUP: Global Delusions
Doubtless there were numerous Native Americans who saw great virtue in the guns, steel knives and woven cloth which became available when Global Trade (GT) washed ashore with the Pilgrims and French fur trappers a few centuries ago. They didn't know about smallpox and alcoholism, and were never informed that new laws would take away their land and force their children into missionary schools. Native Americans were major losers, as were other indigenous peoples who were lured and coerced into GT.GT has been deleterious to the biosphere as well. Imported species have repeatedly wreaked havoc. The gypsy moths brought here to create a domestic silk industry and Dutch Elm disease, an accidental tourist, have decimated American forests. Southeast Asian termites chew their way across Florida, zebra mussels muscle their way through the Great Lakes, the Med-fly terrorizes growers while fire ants nip at their heels, and insecticidal control measures terrorize us all. The effect of GT on our planet's biodiversity has been homogenization -- it is the primary culprit in this era's extinction spasm. The global beef industry is particularly metastatic, and is converting rainforest and savannah biomass to bovine protoplasm on a phenomenal scale.In the exploitation of natural resources, GT has been the engine of devastating abuse. By enabling distant populations to consume the wherewithal of ecosystems around the world, regional curbs on population growth have been overcome with deleterious effect on both the source region and the users. While distal forests are razed, wild lands converted to export plantations, mountains torn down for mineral wealth, and oceans over-fished, the folks at home have become more and more crowded and cramped, with declining air and water quality and an escalating dependence on non-renewable fuels. GT allows the powerful to live off the fat of the land -- all land, everywhere -- leaving natives with a skinny bit of their birthright on which to eke out subsistence.Abetting GT's missionaries, institutions of global finance pave the way for more of the same. Working from a belief system which considers human beings as separate from and above the rest of nature, they see acquisition of wealth as the essential goal. Such institutions are relics of a pre-ecological mindset that doesnât have half a clue how living systems co-evolve as interdependent life support structures. The whole concept of "highest and best use," which governs financial decisions, begs the question of "highest and best for what?" Thus the World Bank funds clearcutting of the world's rainforest lungs, and damming of the world's riverine arteries, while the WTO enables member countries to eliminate each other's environmental protection laws. Destruction of the systems which make life possible on our planet is not incidental to GT, conversion of life into dollars is a central goal.As the world climate reacts to an overload of industrial greenhouse gases, air pollution surges, oceanic dead zones spread outward from major rivers, coral reefs die, oil reserves begin to nose-dive, and arable acreage dwindles there is a growing sense that there might actually be limits to human gluttony. Consequently there is now considerable lip service paid to "sustainable development," but, barring clear proof to the contrary, one can presume that any statement which links those two words is an attempt at greenwashing. "Development" has been adopted as a lofty sounding synonym for "growth," and "sustainable growth" is a non-sequitur.GT requires long supply lines completely dependent on unsustainable fuel use, and any meaningful shift toward real sustainability will rest on the concept of bioregionalism. To live in balance with the earth's biome, we need to model our economic systems on nature's no-growth pattern. There is no gain in nature, just conversion. A carbon atom moves from atmosphere to plant to animal to atmosphere again. Today's acorn is tomorrow's oak, soon to be humus feeding another generation of forest life. To the extent that humans tap non-local sources, use other than current energy sources, and attempt to lock capital out of the recycling loop, our culture will remain inescapably non-sustainable.Global Trade is not the answer, it represents a continuation of the problems and mindset which has pushed our biosphere to the brink. It is time to step back from that precipice and find solutions which will endure.